Stevie Nicks on Love, Loss and What She Wears

With her first solo album in a decade widely praised as her "best yet," the rock icon reflects on past loves, present challenges, and her growth beyond Fleetwood Mac.

By Holly George-Warren
Stevie Nicks "In Your Dreams" cover

MORE: In an interview I did with you previously, you said that you saved all your old tapes from when you were writing or working on songs.

Stevie Nicks: I do.  Two songs for this record were pulled right off of old cassettes. "Annabelle Lee" was pulled off of a demo I did in about 1995, and "Secret Love"--the single--was pulled from a demo from a cassette that I wrote in 1976.

More: You must be really organized to be able to find that.

SN: I'm not, but the people who have worked for me have been very organized. I bought a house in Phoenix in 1978 and from 1978 on, we have what we call "The Song Vault.” It’s a storage unit that's temperature controlled, and it's several big armoires that are shelf after shelf after shelf of everything from collections of tapes that I used to make-- that people make now for their iPods—to collections that I play when I'm on the road, starting when I first joined Fleetwood Mac.  So I have all the old collections of whatever songs were hits at the time, and then there's just everything else I liked.

More: I love the new CD. Some of the songs are like short stories and some are like poems. There are certain themes that come across, like dreams, and ghosts and, it seems, memories of past relationships.

SN: Ghosts ... except the great thing is that they're not gone.  Like in "The Ghosts Are Gone":  the cassette ghosts remain forever.

More:  What inspired that song in particular?

SN: I wrote that as a poem. I was on the road with Fleetwood Mac, I think it was the end of 2004. We were in London, and I met a singer-songwriter named Amanda Ghost. I just loved the fact that her last name was Ghost.  So I just wrote that poem. It’s not about her because I didn't really know her, but the main inspiration was her last name.

    Lots of time I'll get an inspiration, like "The Ghosts Are Gone"-- that's just a sentence.  Then I have to write a story around it.  And so "The Ghosts Are Gone" song actually was about the end of a relationship, in the way that you say, "I'm done forever. This can never be again.”

     It's one of the most solid songs I've ever written. The ghosts are gone: all memories are gone, all feelings are gone, it's as if it never happened. And I don't write too many songs like that.  I always have more or less a hopeful outlook, but in that situation it was like “you are gone to me.”

More:  Saying that through the song, did that help you get your head out of the relationship?

SN: Yes.  At the end of it, it says, "like a golden rain, like a silvery veil, like a golden rainbow, like a song she's gone."  It's like I'm gone.  I usually build a way back in my songs, but in this particular song, there was no way back.

More: So you're able to write when you're on the road even though you're so busy.  It sounds like a few songs came out of the 2000s with Fleetwood Mac.

SN: Yeah, that was the "Say You Will" Fleetwood Mac tour.  I write in my journal almost every night.  If anything happened that was great, or even if something happened that wasn't so great, I write about it.

More: You said you’re keeping these journals for your goddaughters and your niece.

SN: Yes, and I think that's really great because I think of my grandmother, my mom's mom--I adored her.  And I spent every summer with her from when I was about 3 until I was 15, and I just loved her so much and I had so much fun with her.  She would let me stay up all night and drink coffee and watch movies.  And I just wish so much that she had been writing, because it she had written it down, I'd have it. I keep my journals in those big leather-bound journals because I find that those don't get lost. I like to tell all my fairy god-daughters and my niece Jesse that when I'm gone ... which is not a bummer, it's just fact ... they can sit on the floor and go through all these journals, and they can walk through my life, and they can smell the gardenia perfume on the  pages.  They can have it in their hands ... who I was.

More: Your look has been so influential, and continues to be. You'll see “the Stevie Nicks” look come up in various fashion seasons.

SN: Margi Kent has been making my clothes since the day I got home from the first Fleetwood Mac tour in 1975, and realized that I could never again go on the road with a suitcase full of stuff and try to figure out what I was going to wear onstage. So I went to her and drew a handkerchief skirt and those little sleeves and platform boots and a little top hat, and said, “This is who I want to be." That was the look.

More:  I love what you're wearing on the new album cover with the white horse.

SN: That was done in my back yard, and I looked out of my bedroom window, and that horse was standing over in the back of my yard.  It was a sunny day and there's big evergreens in my yard and the sun was coming through the trees and lighting up that horse. And that black dress I'm wearing is a Morgane Le Fey dress, bought in 1994.

More:  I can't believe you can still wear your dress from 1994.

SN: My whole weight thing has fluctuated.  Right now, I'm down to a pretty thin weight for me.  And all those clothes are pretty drapy; they're not fitted, they're gowns.

MoreThey're very flattering.  Do you have some sort of routine?  Do you work out, or are you following a certain type of diet?

SN: I have had such amazing luck with Weight Watchers.  I'm not as successful as Jennifer Hudson, because I've only lost about 11 pounds. But  I'm only 5'1" and I haven't been the weight t I am now since the mid-1990s.  So for me, I'm thin now, and I'm totally loving it.

More: What about exercise?

SN:  For 15 minutes, I walk to "Secret Love" and then I do another 3 or 4 minutes on the Power Plate, and then for 15 minutes I walk to the "Moonlight" song.  That's what I've been doing over the past 3 months, and I have to say, I've never gotten tired of those two songs.  And it cracks me up, because I've got all this other great treadmill music, and I am totally sticking with those two songs, because they are working.

More:  As far as the subject matter of your songs, they’re pretty timeless, and there’s a broad appeal to all ages, considering the vampire aspect, which so many people today are so interested in – from teens my son’s age to women my age.

SN: I know.  All of my friends are somewhere between 50 and 60 and we are all so into those Twilight books.  I saw the first two movies first, then I wrote “Moonlight.” Then I went back and read them.  So the song's about the second one.  It's about me through the eyes of Bella and Edward, back through their eyes to me.

   I'm so completely involved in all those stories ... I saw the movie Eclipse, which was not my favorite one, but then I went back and I read the Eclipse book, which I thought was fantastic..

   I think that anything that catches on like Twilight is wonderful, because it gives people a fun world to live in.

 When I was in Europe in 2009 with Fleetwood Mac, I went to Paris with three of my friends. We were at the Hotel de Crillon and two days after we get there, there's people gathering at the hotel and there's security people on our floor, and every day there's more and more people outside.  There's kids staring through the windows at us --everybody in the hotel felt like we were in a zoo. Finally my friend Mary walked up to one of them and said, "Why are you here?"  He said, "Oh, the vampires are here."  So they were on our floor --Edward and Bella.

More:  I wonder if they're going to hear that song and know that it was inspired by that movie?

SN:  Oh, they're going to know.

More:  I recently heard Ann Rice is going to write about vampires again.

SN:  I only read Interview With a Vampire. It’s interesting because in the "Moonlight" song, there's a violin part that I wrote and when I got my friend's daughter to play it, I said to her, "I want you to be Lestat sitting on the top of an old building in London, playing an amazingly lonely gypsy violin part."  Because Lestat played the violin.

More:  Have you seen any of True Blood with the sex-crazed vampires?

SN: There's nothing romantic about True Blood.  The whole vampire thing for me is all about forbidden love.  The reason that Edward doesn't want to be with Bella is because he doesn't want her life to be ruined.  It's very unselfish, the way that he looks at it.  And she doesn't care because he's all she wants.  It's Beauty and the Beast.  All the great fairy tales are built around that forbidden, cursed love.

More:  I guess an element of that is in "Secret Love," too, even though it's on a  more human scale. But the fact that it's a secret kind of freezes the moment because it can never be played out.

SN: Yeah.  [That relationship] could not be. It was so forbidden that I never even told anybody about that song, and I'm not exactly sure who I wrote it about, because it was so long ago and I put it away in a box and it went into The Song Vault and I never pulled it out.  And when we were recording last year, at some point I saw that cassette with the words "Secret Love" on it, and I thought, "I wonder if I can find that song?" We finally found it on YouTube before we found it in my garage.  So somehow that cassette had gotten out many years ago.

More:  How could that happen?

SN: I don't know.  There was a part of me that was thrilled because we found it, and the other part of me was not thrilled because it was stolen.

More: That must feel so awful.

SN: It's the world of the internet, and I don't like it, and I think it's sad because it's taken away, especially for children, their manners and their abilities to have social skills, and their ability to just go out and hang out and talk, and not stand in the same room looking at each other texting each other.  I just think it's crazy.  But there's nothing we can do,to stop it

More:  I love the fact that you used Poe’s “Annabelle Lee” in a song, showing how 19th century literature is still vibrant today.

SN: I wrote that when I was 17.  It was my favorite poem and I put it to music on my guitar and I never forgot it. I never recorded it. It just lived in my head.  About 10 or 12 years ago, I sat down at the piano and started playing it.  And in the "Moonlight" video, we have a guy who is just so Edgar Allen Poe, and he's reading his book and he's very dark and brooding and old-fashioned---in total costume.  The fact that it's a song written by Edgar Allen Poe and Stevie Nicks is pretty awesome.  I hope Edgar would be happy.

More: "Soldier's Angel" was inspired by your work in the hospitals in D.C. and giving iPods to the veterans. Are you still doing that?

SN: Since I started the record, I haven't had the time ... it takes a week.  But I go to Walter Reed and Bethesda and I stay 11 hours.  I feel honored that they let me do it and I will do it forever. They pretty much give me the run of the hospital, and I stay and see every soldier.  If he wants to see me, I stay.  And it's very soul-fulfilling.  They're just children, and they're so happy to have somebody care and be there.

More:  You load songs onto the iPods you give the soldiers. Do any of these refer back to those compilation tapes you used to make?

SN:   Yes, they're some of the old ones.

More: So it's a continuation of what you've been doing, and with such a good purpose.

SN:   Yeah, and these kids are very injured, and the last thing they're going to be able to do is download music, and almost every single one of them had an iPod that got blown up in Iraq or Afghanistan.  So I put everything on it -- I put jazz and R&B and rap, and country and classic rock and smooth fusion, instrumental.  I put 937 songs that cover just about anything, so that in their rehabilitation, until they get it together to make their own [song lists], they have something. I hope that the music is going to dance them right out of that bed.

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First Published Thu, 2011-04-14 16:00

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